May 3 – 640 Words

Day 3 – Limits: 640 Words

This is the second of our recurring “limits” posts. As the month progresses you’ll come across all sorts of limits: time, word count, point of view, structure. If you get stuck, try rewriting an earlier story in a new way, using these ‘limits’ posts.

The Prompt

Write a story in 640 words


  • Why 640 words? It’s the length of a traditional newspaper opinion column. It’s long enough for a set up, some flavor and a parting shot, but not much more.
  • Limit your intro and ending to about 50 words each, leaving yourself 540 words to set up and deliver an interesting moment in time for a fascinating character.
  • Overwrite and then cut, if you must. Think about every word, every description. Does it need to be there. Do your descriptions also tell us about the character’s state of mind? Is every piece of dialogue weighted with things unspoken, double meanings, misunderstanding?
  • If you need to cut words, can you get away without dialogue tags? There’s no need to say “he said” if you’re following it with the stage direction “John slammed his mug onto the formica counter and turned away”. Can you start the story later in the scene? Can you hint at or imply something that you have explicitly told the reader, with a word or a glance?
  • If you have finished your story and not yet reached the word limit, what can you add without bloating the story? Is it clear where this story is taking place from the noises, smells and sights the characters notice? It the timeframe or period clear? Do your characters give away the subtext of what they’re saying with unconscious body language? Can you add a few sentences of a different length, to change the pace? Like this?


Psst! Did writing a short-short story take less time than writing a 2,000-word story? No? I didn’t think so!

Post a comment at the blog to let us know you’ve written today, or join the community and post in the Victory Dance Group.

[Writing Prompt] 640 Words

So how did you get on yesterday?

Did you write? Did you leave a comment on the blog post, or do your Victory Dance?

Hooray, you’ve made it to Saturday. I hope you’re one of those lucky people for whom Saturday means a break from the regular responsibilities of the week. But likely you’re not. So: tough. We’re writers and we write whether we’re on ‘vacation’ from real life or not 😉

Today we’re striking a happy medium between the lengths of story we’ve played with already.

The Prompt

Write A Story of 640 Words


  • This is about the length of a newspaper column (remember them?). Enough room to tell a story but not much room for florid language.
  • Pay attention as you write, to how long it’s taking you to write, on average. This will help you set realistic goals about how much time you really need to set aside to produce good creative work.
  • Pay attention to your writing style as you write today. Which length of story has felt more comfortable to you?
  • Make sure you finish all your stories this week. Even if you have to write “[FILL IN DETAILS HERE LATER]”, try to get to the end of the story every time. Have you been finishing your stories? What has this taught you about getting to the meat of the story quickly?



(And don’t forget to celebrate when you’re finished, by commenting below or doing your victory dance.)